Lymphatic massage, also called lymphatic drainage or manual lymph drainage, is a technique developed in Germany for treatment of lymphedema, an accumulation of fluid that can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, most often a mastectomy for breast cancer. Lymphedema can also be present at birth or develop at puberty or during adulthood.
This type, known as primary lymphedema, can affect as many as four limbs and/or other parts of the body. The cause is unknown. Lymphatic drainage massage for conditions other than lymphedema is not medically recommended, although it may be promoted by some therapists.
Lymph drainage massages are not as popular as other types of massage in the United States, yet they provide numerous health benefits. The International Alliance of Healthcare Educators explains that lymph drainage massages are done in a specific rhythm and direction to increase the flow of the lymphatic system in the body. People with medical needs and those who are healthy can both benefit from this type of massage.
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